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The $1 Million Plan to Attract Jews to Alabama

Five years later, Dothan, Ala. has 18 new Jewish residents

Stephanie Butnick
October 14, 2013

Five years ago, Larry Blumberg hatched an unconventional plans to get fellow co-religionists to move down to Dothan, Alabama—pay them. The Associated Press reports on his $1 million recruitment plan, which offered Jewish families $50,000 in relocation assistance to move down south, and stay there. The deal stipulated that the family would need to remain for at least five years, and get involved in the local Jewish community, which was rooted around Dothan’s floundering Temple Emanu-El.

It may sound like a long shot, a hometown Hail Mary of sorts, but it worked. Since then, six new families, totaling 18 people in all (you can’t make that number up), have moved to Dothan from places like New York and Florida, doubling services at Temple Emanu-el. Alabama, so hot right now.

Larry Blumberg smiles when he talks about what has grown in the few years since he hatched the idea to pay moving expenses for families relocating to the area.

“The injection of this new blood has really been helpful and refreshing,” said Blumberg. “I think the program has created a lot of buzz and attention both in our local community and throughout the Jewish community at large.”

This summer, S.L. Wisenberg reported the story of Elijah Schulman, a 12-year-old from Bethesda, MD, who decided to hold his bar mitzvah in August at Mishkan Israel in Selma, Ala., the place ancestors on both sides of his family had immigrated from Europe. He also pledged to raise $10,000 to donate to the synagogue, which, like Temple Emanu-El in Dothan, had fallen into disrepair as the congregation dwindled (Schulman had collected about $2,000 by mid-June, perhaps Blumberg could help him with the rest).

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.

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